An Introduction to Our Travel Log: Implications for Psychiatry


Welcome to Canada!




Vacations generally have positive psychiatric implications, or at least intentions. Unless something goes wrong, they offer a respite and restoration from everyday life and stress, although our current online 24/7 work availability compromises that possibility.

What you specifically do on the vacation may also have mental health and psychiatric

implications. Sometimes that can just be escapism and relaxation, like going to the beach and reading a light book. But that is not the kind of vacations my wife and I take. As our Rabbi son often jokes: “What cultural event(s) did you go to today?”

So, I thought, on the embarkation of our usual Canadian summer vacation to see plays at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival and George Bernard Shaw Festival, as well as musical performances in Toronto, all with reconnections with old friends, that I might report on them for these weekday daily columns. Besides, I do not have much time, nor interest, to peruse the daily news as I usually do. The bonus is that this summer comes closest to those prepandemic, with all the extra gratitude and anticipation for their occurrence live and in person.

Whenever we come to Canada, the first thing we usually notice is some general differences and context between Canada and the United States. This includes medical care, where Canada has a single payer governmental system, where psychiatric care is provided without business intrusion and control. Billing is simple and more than adequate in reimbursement.

The health care is reflected in different kinds of government. Whiles both countries have forms of democracy, they differ. Peace, order, and good government are the founding principles of Canada, whereas life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are those highlighted in the founding principles of the United States. Both countries discriminated against their Native populations, producing much loss and trauma historically. Restitution is slow—too slow.

In a way, anticipating the upcoming cultural events is like returning to a time before the formal development of the psychological and psychiatric fields, when we learned about individuals and human nature from artists, philosophers, and religious texts. I am looking forward to learning that creative way once again. I must add, though, that one of my favorite classes during my psychiatric residency at the University of Chicago was one on novels taught by a professor there. Good novels been confirmed to increase empathy.

Related to the humanities and psychiatry, there was the final cultural gesture of termination with my residency when a psychotherapy patient at student mental health gave me a book that resonated with her life, or at least what her life was becoming, the poetry book, Diving into the Wreck by the feminist poet, Adrienne Rich. “Even, Steven” she wrote in her inscription, and that may have been so. She eventually went on to become a psychotherapist.

Dr Moffic is an award-winning psychiatrist who has specialized in the cultural and ethical aspects of psychiatry. A prolific writer and speaker, he received the one-time designation of Hero of Public Psychiatry from the Assembly of the American Psychiatric Association in 2002. He is an advocate for mental health issues related to climate instability, burnout, Islamophobia, and anti-Semitism for a better world. He serves on the Editorial Board of Psychiatric Times.

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